Resources for reflecting on The Shack

textIn the previous post I explained that the reason to read The Shack is because it helps us to imagine how God meets us in our place of “Great Sadness,” so that we can begin to understand that He is truly good and so that we can begin to trust Him in the midst of our pain and brokenness. If you do not feel this need, there’s no need to read The Shack.

I also explained that if one does feel this need, then one should read The Shack with mythopoetic imagination just as one would read the works of George MacDonald, because the narrative events anchor the meaning of the didactic portions instead of vice-versa.

Yet even as C.S. Lewis compiled an anthology of quotations from MacDonald’s works, so in the same way, readers of The Shack will look back and ponder the didactic statements of theology that they encountered. An anthology of the highlights in my own copy of The Shack would not make a best-seller, but these underlined passages are very meaningful to me! Yet unfortunately, largely as a result of The Shack’s mythopoetic literary form, these statements are as incomplete and imprecise from the standpoint of theology as they are tantalizing, and so it’s appropriate to seek outside help to piece together a coherent understanding of Young’s theological perspective.

So if you have benefited from reading The Shack and have come to the place where you want to reflect on its theology, then in this post I’ve assembled some resources that I’ve found helpful for reflecting on the theological perspective of The Shack, to try to put together what it all means.

  1. The obvious point is to start by reading The Shack. Thankfully, it’s available in inexpensive paperback versions from WalMart and Amazon. Hard-cover, large-print, and audio versions are offered on the Windblown Media website, along with translations into Spanish and other languages. The Shack is also available for the Kindle and from the iBooks Store for your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Gary and Cathy Deddo, God, the Bible and the Shack (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010). To help you put together the main themes of The Shack, start here. The Deddos explore what The Shack has to say about how we can know if God is completely good; what it means to believe in the Trinity; and how to trust in the goodness of God amidst the evil of this broken world. This is the best introduction I have found to The Shack, and if you’re sitting on the fence about whether to read it or what to think of it, then this little booklet is for you.
  3. Gary Deddo, Questions and Answers about The Shack: A Supplement to the IVP Booklet (2010; pdf available for free download from the booklet web page). In my opinion, Deddo has provided in this succinct and readable pdf the most illuminating and helpful analysis of the theological perspective of The Shack. Read this essay if you want to better understand Paul Young’s theology or if you’re concerned about criticism The Shack has received.
  4. I highly recommend letting Paul Young speak for himself by listening to audio talks or watching video conversations where he explains how he came to write The Shack, what it is all about, and how it reflects his personal journey through a “Great Sadness”:
    • Mariner Church (choice of video or audio for six different events in July, 2008, including one highly recommended talk that is autobiographical).
    • You’re Included, a podcast of Grace Communion International (“GCI”; choice of video or audio for three sequential half-hour conversations with Paul Young; You’re Included is also available at iTunes).
    • Fuller Seminary, Heard on Campus podcast; search the iTunes Store for “William Paul Young” to find this and other talks by Young.
    • More.

  5. Tradition of Trinitarian Theology: It’s difficult to avoid critics of The Shack. Yet many of them have either not read The Shack, or have only browsed through it in a superficial manner. Some have gone so far as to accuse it of heresy. It would be better if they would just explain that their theological tradition differs from the theology of The Shack, and that they believe it is in error on a number of specific points. But The Shack does derive its theological perspective from “Trinitarian theology,” a robust tradition of Christian theology that is both Protestant and evangelical. Young did not make this stuff up all by himself! If you wish to understand with sympathetic insight the theological perspective of The Shack, before you turn to the critics, then start with the following resources that throw light on the theological background of Young’s writing:

  6. Theological studies of The Shack: Baxter Kruger’s discussions of The Shack are extremely well-informed about the tradition of Trinitarian theology underlying Young’s perspective – and Baxter’s third interview (January 9, 2010) on You’re Included indicates that we’ll soon be treated to his theological reflections on The Shack in book form. (More Kruger) UPDATE: Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited, is out!

I hope that these resources will help readers of The Shack to more fully reflect on the experience of sharing in Young’s spiritual journey, and to move more deeply into personal reflections on the practical meanings of Christian theology.

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6 Responses to Resources for reflecting on The Shack

  1. Michael says:

    I have no quarrel with Young’s vision in The Shack. What is problematic in my life is the reality of this good God. Young says in one of the videos that he has come to a place where he is able to say, “your will be done, Lord.” I can’t bring myself to that place. It is frightening and I wish someone would’ve warned me about this God.

    Bottom line, I’m a coward. I barely endure living among these ruins.

  2. Kerry Magruder says:

    Michael, boy do I understand and empathize with where you are. Frankly, Michael, I’m a coward with you — like Karen said, “Little Miss Much Afraid.” Thanks for your honest comment. Thanks also for watching some of those videos, which may hold out some hope for you that the only God who is real is the God of love revealed in the face of Jesus. But until you know that deep down, keep telling the truth about God as you see Him. That’s one of the things I like about The Shack — when Mack met God there. God did not chide Mack about his anger, as if Mack should just all of a sudden just start acting happy and nice. Rather, God welcomed Mack in his state of anger and showed him a way through it to a greater truth and personal trust.

  3. Michael says:

    If your links to Young’s world do nothing else, they did help a friend of mine. She watched his autobiographically angled talk and found it life changing. Just wanted to pass along a thank you from her. It met her in her shack.

    As for me, I’m still railing at the sky.

  4. kvmagruder says:

    Thanks, Michael, for the good news.

    And Becky, thanks for pointing me to the Transition lectures by Jacobsen! I’ve added the link to them (that you sent me) to the post.

  5. Pingback: Trinitarian Theology | Kerry's loft

  6. Pingback: Masaccio’s Trinity, Psalm 22 and The Shack | Kerry's loft

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